BAGHDAD: Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced Tuesday that units of government forces, backed by Shia and Sunni volunteer forces, have managed to retake control of the strategic northern city of Tikrit from the ISIL group.
Abadi said that Iraqi forces have liberated Tikrit and raised the countrys national flag over the Salahuddin provincial government headquarters, Iraqs public broadcaster al-Iraqiya television network reported.
Abadi “announces the liberation of Tikrit and congratulates Iraqi security forces and popular volunteers on the historic milestone,” his official Twitter account said.
Abadi’s spokesman, Rafid Jaboori, told AFP that: “Iraqi forces reached the center of Tikrit, raised the Iraqi flag and are now clearing the city.”
Earlier in the day, Abadi said Iraqi forces had reached the center of Tikrit and retaken the neighborhoods on the southern and western edges of the city in their push to regain control of the entire Tikrit.
The Iraqi premier said army troopers together with security personnel, members of the pro-government Popular Mobilization Units, tribal fighters as well as local residents are participating in the operation to liberate Tikrit.
The development comes a day after Iraqi army soldiers, backed by Shia and Sunni volunteers, raised the Iraqi national flag over the Grand Mosque of Tikrit.
The forces also retook the citys medical college on Monday as they continued to gain more ground against the ISIL Takfiris.
Tikrit was seized by ISIL in June last year. The citys recapture is crucial for the Iraqi army in its quest to take control of the countrys second-largest city, Mosul.
ISIL started its campaign of terror in Iraq in early June 2014. The heavily-armed militants took control of the countrys northern city of Mosul before sweeping through parts of the countrys Sunni Arab heartland.
Iraqi soldiers, police units, Kurdish forces, Shia volunteers and Sunni tribesmen have succeeded in driving the ISIL terrorists out of some areas in Iraq.